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A Journey to the Past Carries ‘Anastasia’ to the Present in Broadway’s Newest Hit Musical

May 28, 2017

One of Broadway’s most anticipated and popular new musicals this spring, Anastasia the Musical is based on Fox’s 1997 animated film of the same title. However, the musical pushes Anastasia from its place on a dusty old shelf of VHS tapes into the modern world, making audiences once again fall in love with this timeless tale. Playwriter Terrence McNall kept the motivations of the films two lovable con men Dimitri (played by Derek Klena) and Vlad (played by John Bolton) the same–getting the 10 million ruble reward the late Dowager Empress has offered for the safe return of her granddaughter, Anastasia (played by Christy Altomare). The two men find Anya, an orphan who has no memories of her past and groom her to become Anastasia, unaware she really is Anastasia. To make the musical more historically accurate, the villain is a Bolshevik soldier, Gleb (played by Ramin Karimloo) who is in charge of making sure the new political regime stays in power. Additionally, the Tony Award-winning songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, who wrote the music for the animated film including the Oscar-nominated song, “Journey to the Past,” wrote more than 15 new songs for the musical. The musical highlights the dark history surrounding the Russia Revolution. There are flashbacks to the murder of the Romanov family and allusions to labors camps topics a G-rated movie could not include. Anya’s sassy behavior, beloved by many in the filmis taken out and replaced by a heartfelt, timid, and sensitive but still loveable Anya.

According to critics, these differences have granted the musical its own unique identity and perhaps rentered it even better than the animated film. Reviewers of the musical (which opened April 24th) are positive especially noting Christy Altomare’s heartfelt, dedicated, and talented performance. Variety Magazine writes, “As the young woman who finds not only her identity but sense of self, Altomare takes the spotlight with the same assured conviction that Anya does when she takes the crown. And if thoughts of Julie Andrews pop up on occasion, it isn’t inappropriate — or underserved, given Altomare’s vocal strength and the “My Fair Princess” theme.” The Wall Street Journal notes that “Christy Altomare is wondrous as Anya. She manages to be unassuming yet the center of attention; her voice is luminous and powerful and clear, so you wonder how she could not be a grand duchess of one kind of another.” New York Daily News praises Altomare’s talent saying, “Altomare has a bright, clear voice and shines in the lead role. Anya may or may not be a princess, but the actress playing her is a royal treat.”  AMNY writes, “Christy Altomare is smashing as Anya, with powerhouse vocals full of spark and sensitive yearning.” Audience members are loving the musical especially ones who were fans of the animated film such as Nia Harvey (Manhattanville College, 18) and Hannah Schutzler (Emmaus High School, 19). Harvey praises the new songs, costumes, characters, and sets. “I loved “My Petersburg” [a new song made for the musical] because I loved Dmitri his much needed and interesting backstory and Derek Klena did an amazing job performing it.” Schutzler loves everything from the choreography and costumes saying “I really like Anastasia’s red ball gown she wears towards the end of the show. It shows that Anastasia owns her royal roots and has come very far. The dance number for the song ‘Land of Yesterday’ is my favorite choreography. It takes place in a Paris night club and really showcases the dance style of the time.”

Anastasia leads the Outer Critic Circle Awards with 13 nominations and 9 Drama Desk Awards, and two Tony nominations for best costume design and best-supporting actress in a musical. On May 5th the producers of the new musical, Anastasia, have announced plans for international productions of the hit musical across Europe, Asia, United Kingdom, Australia and South America. The list of international markets with plans underway for Anastasia includes Germany, Holland Spain, Russia, Korea, Japan, Mexico, China and more to be announced. Plans for a North American tour are also underway.

Anastasia the Musical is now playing on Broadway. Watch highlights of the show here. Read an interview with Christy Altomare below.

An Interview with the star of Anastasia the Musical, Christy Altomare

1. “Anastasia: The New Musical” is a new spin on the 1997 animated film, what is your favorite new song and/or unique spin that this musical took on?

“In My Dreams” is my favorite new song. I love how the show fleshes out the characters a little more and can squeeze in more of the interesting history of the Romanov Family.

2. Were you a fan of the animated film before getting the role? If so, what are some aspects of the film Anastasia do you want to emphasize in your characterization of Anastasia?

Yes!!! I just want to honor the beautiful work Meg and Liz [Meg Ryan and Liz Callaway the voice actress and singer of Anastasia in the 1997 animated film], but still, give a performance that comes from the heart and feels like my own.

3. The real Anastasia and her family lived about 100 years ago, why do you think that the story of Anastasia is still interesting and/or popular today?

The mystery, romance, and adventure.

4. What strengths or traits of Anastasia’s do you admire the most and why?

Her optimism, vulnerability, strength and perseverance. They are beautiful qualities and I love to connect them every night.

5. What is the best part of performing on Broadway?

Performing on Broadway. I’m so grateful.

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